Bearcat Pride, Code of Conduct, Daycare Rates and More at School Board Meeting

Board Member James Sargent Being Recognized by Superintendent Sheila MitchelDerek ShousePam WareBoard Members James Sargent and Roger McDowell

The Anderson County School Board met this past Monday night where a number of important topics were discussed.  Before starting the main part of the meeting, school board member, James Sargent, was recognized by Superintendent Sheila Mitchell and the Kentucky School Board Association for achieving multiple levels in the KSBA Academy of Studies, reaching both levels 3 and 4.

Bearcat Pride Foundation Agreement

The Bearcat Pride Foundation has been working on raising funds to create a new multi-sport athletic field at the Anderson County High School Football field by replacing the grass with synthetic turf.  As part of the legal process, the school board approved the external agreement to ensure good communication and proper recommendations for architectural and construction work that will be coming in the future.

According to Superintendent Mitchell, the agreement is the first official step to establish a relationship between the board and the foundation.  It also sets them a timeline of three years to complete the fundraising and architectural drawings.

Pam Ware, representative from the foundation, assured the board that the foundation is looking at the most experienced contractors and architectural firms to complete the project.  “We want it to be a top notch field,” she said.  She also announced that their brick paver fundraiser is being installed at the football field with more bricks still available and that they will be selling Bearcat Fan yard signs as a new fundraiser.  Check their website for bricks and more information.

Code of Conduct

Derek Shouse gave the board an overview of a number of updates for the district’s code of conduct.  New this year is the inclusion of a more extensive anti-bullying section to align with new state statutes. “We want our families to know that we got a process if there is bullying going on or if there is perceived bullying going on,” he said.

The code now specifically states in one section: “The use of lewd, profane or vulgar language is prohibited. In addition, students shall not engage in behaviors such as hazing, bullying, menacing, taunting, intimidating, verbal or physical abuse of others, or other threatening behavior. This policy extends to any/all student language or behavior including, but not limited to, the use of electronic or online methods. Such behavior is disruptive of the educational process and interferes with the ability of other students to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered.”

The section above does cover some social media bullying, according to Derek, but specifically only if it causes disruptions at the schools.  He explained that many times online bullying ends up causing disruption and bullying among students at the schools where administrators then have to take action.

The code now also specifically has language about the school’s Truancy Diversion Program, alternative expulsion, and an opt out form for military recruitment.

Daycare Rates

The most heavily debated topic of the night involved the rates for the daycare programs at the elementary schools.  The board was presented with an option to begin charging employees for daycare services.

Although the daycare system as a whole was just barely self sufficient, Emma B Ward’s was deeply negative.  According to the district’s finance director, David Wilkerson, the negativity is largely due to the larger number of employee children at its facility.  With the state requiring particular child to employee ratios for daycare as well as now not allowing the school board to officially show funding being moved from the general fund to balance a negative account for the daycare system, the daycare system at that one school may bring down the rest.

David explained that it is a definite possibility that the daycare system as a whole may run negative in the following year if revenue drops at the other schools which are currently covering for Ward’s.  If that happens, the district is relatively tied on how to handle it, which includes raising rates even higher the following year or shutting it down entirely.

The proposed rates for employees were under half of what it would cost non-employees.  It consisted of $20 per week for after school care or $5 per day per child, $25 per week for pre-school or $6 per day per child, and $10 per Bearcat Day or Snow Day per child.  “It’s still a very good deal.  It’s less than half the non-employee rate. To me, one of the alternatives is not to have the daycares and that definitely causes our employees and everyone else to suffer,” David said.

The board faced a difficult situation and looked for ways to cut costs, including consolidating the daycares or moving employees to ensure a positive outcome for the following year.  Unfortunately, no viable option was found.

The rates were eventually approved in a 3-2 decision.  Roger McDowell and James Sargent dissented, citing that they didn’t want to take more from the teachers.

“Twenty dollars a week, I know it’s not a full year but if it was a full year, you’re talking about a $1000 extra bill for somebody that probably wasn’t expecting it.  I don’t want to take anything more from our teachers,” Roger said.  James further agreed, “We cant give [the teachers] a raise.  This is like a perk and I can’t keep seeing taking things away from them.”

Rates for non-employees also changed at two schools. At Robert B Turner, the rate went down by $5 but went up by $5 at Saffell Street Elementary, with both now having the same cost at $45 a week for the first child and $35 for the second, or $10 per day.

Saffell Street Elementary Math Textbooks

Saffell Street Elementary Principal, Todd Woolridge, requested the board to approve the purchase of a new math textbook system.  However, this brought particular contention for board members, Lee Hahn and Roger McDowell, as they were concerned that the new curriculum may spell trouble for students entering Anderson County Middle School.

With the new textbooks, Saffell Street would be using a different system than the other schools, and both board members didn’t want a situation where one group of children would have a different skill set as compared to another at the middle school.  However, Principal Woolridge assured them that all students entering the middle school would still have the same skills, but the new system would work better for the elementary school’s teachers and students.  Board member Donna Crain Drury agreed.

The decision did pass with a 3-2 vote, after realizing the board couldn’t delay the decision to consult with middle school administrators as the Saffell Street teachers need time to train in the new system before the start of the school year.  There was discussion at the end of the vote to make sure that the board has plenty of time to decide such matters as well as James Sargent saying they should pursue financial opportunities available for math programs.

Glensboro School House and Other Topics

The board decided to sell the old Glensboro School House in front of Anderson County High School through a sealed bid process.  However, they did make stipulations that whomever purchases the building must fill in the crawl space and move the building within 60 days of receiving the proper permits from the state.

The board also approved purchasing an oven for Saffell Street Elementary, was updated on computer security and data breach regulations, approved the high school marching band and choir funding which remained the same as last year, approved an LED lighting project for the gyms at the high and middle schools as well as the all purpose room at the high school, approved the construction of ramps at Sparrow Early Childhood Center’s playground, as well as a number of other items.

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